Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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A Nightmare for Christmas

Christmas in the post-War United States

There’s something that terrifies me, and I have nightmares about it every Christmas.

It stems from my childhood, back when I was tender and vulnerable. Back when things impressed me and made a big difference in my life.

I think I’ve mentioned that I have four sisters and a brother. Each Christmas, Mama turned herself inside out, doing her best to figure out what we really wanted for Christmas. (I might have said I wanted ice skates, but with not so cold weather and no place to skate, she knew I wouldn’t be happy.)

So she’d shop from can’t see to can’t see, getting just the right gifts for all of us.

On Christmas morning, we’d rush to the living room to see what we had under the tree.

This particular Christmas morning, we all looked at our gifts and were giddy with joy. All of us, except one.

Now if you know my sibs, you know we’re very individual people. Debbie’s sweet and loves to have people at her house, Jeffrey’s a caretaker/outdoorsman, Lisa’s a ton of fun, I’m weird, Omega’s a baby (well, she’s THE baby, anyway) and Cindy is quiet, plays well with others. (Well, we all play well with others, but she doesn’t a really good job of it.)

I don’t remember what I got that holiday morning or what any of the others got. I only remember Cindy’s response.

When we’d all finished and were admiring our take, Mom noticed Cindy was crying. When she asked what was wrong, Cindy answered.

Her answer is the stuff nightmares are made of . . . for me, anyway. She said, “I didn’t get anything I wanted for Christmas.”

AAAAACK!

Mama was devastated. I was devastated for her. In fact, I think the entire family nearly bawled when Cindy said those eight words. The very next day, though, Mama made up for it. She took Cindy to Tulsa and let her pick out just exactly what she wanted.

She got to keep all the gifts she’d been given that she didn’t want, and get new ones, too. (Maybe that’s when the rest of us bawled.)

So a few days before Christmas, I’ve always worried that come Christmas morning, when we’re all sitting around the tree unwrapping the presents I’ve so lovingly wrapped, I’d hear those horrible words.

I don’t think I could handle it.

Do you have a nightmare for Christmas?

 

 

 


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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year! When I was growing up, Mama made a big deal out of it and passed that enjoyment on to her kiddos.

It’s always been my favorite time of the year, too. From our first Christmas as a family, G-Man and I’ve loved it! garyWe lived in B’ville for our first Christmas. Those are insulated coveralls, Santa brought him for riding his motorcycle. The rocking chair behind him was my present. (I still have mine, but the coveralls are long gone. LOL!)

SusanNotice the gorgeous Christmas tree. It’s a cedar, and when I was growing up, it was the REAL Christmas tree.

baby-dannyThen Baby Danny came along. (Okay, about five years later, Baby Danny came along.) That’s when the real fun at Christmas began.

Knowing how active and inquisitive Danny was, we put the tree on top of the card table, and bought all soft, knitted ornaments in case he succeeded in grabbing the tree and turning it over.

Luckily, he never did. I don’t remember what was in that present under the tree, but I still have the ornaments on my tree today, even though I don’t have to worry about him turning it over anymore. Much.

Brad-toys

This is Baby Bradley at Mama’s on Christmas morning. You know it’s Mom’s because of the red carpet. Mama loved red–because it’s the quintessential Christmas color? Could be!

When Brad was this size and I took his picture, he always looked as if I’d just caught him doing something. Can you see that innocent, “Who, me?” look? LOL!

gifts-and-tearsI laugh every time I look at this picture. We’d just moved to Pryor Creek the August before. Brad (on the right) was one and Matt (crying) was three. For some reason, the kids naturally opened their presents one at a time while the others watched. The others would then go and try to take it away from the owner.

More tears than understanding that Christmas. (And parental laughter!)

Matt-giftThose Christmas morning battles dissipated as the boys learned to enjoy their own presents, or to be sneakier about taking them from the others. 🙂

3-boysBatmen and Mickey Mouse came for Christmas one year, and everyone had a great time.

Don’t you love the look on all their faces? Danny’s thinking, “How soon can I go back to bed?”

Matt’s just giddy with the happiness of  celebrating the season.

And Brad is thinking, “I’ll bet I can swipe those other gifts and put them back before anyone finds out.”

We’re back where we started now. All the boys have wives, homes, and (furry) children of their own. But Christmas is still the most wonderful time of the year.

I think I’ll go paint something red. 🙂

 

 

 


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A Fried Chicken Fourth

Can you believe summer’s already a third gone? (Thank heaven!) Today’s July 1. (I checked my calendar.) It’s 4th of July this next Wednesday.

4th OF JULY. I love the idea of a day off in the middle of the week, but it’s not really a day off. We have a family tradition that I can’t escape. (Not that I want to.)

I fry chicken every year on the 4th. It’s good stuff if I do say so myself. (Aunt Phyllis, Mama and Grandmother all taught me how.) Here’s how.

Years ago, when the boys were all still small, we decided to go to OKC for the 4th and take a picnic, so I fried chicken. We went to a military park near the OKC Zoo. The kids had a great time, running around, playing army and getting in and out of the equipment.

I loved it. My kids couldn’t tear up military equipment, so I didn’t have to stay right on top of them. 😛 With three rambunctious boys, that’s a blessing!

After lunch, we visited the 45th Infantry Division Museum. G-Man loved it, I kind of enjoyed it, and the boys were bored. Remember I said we had rambunctious boys? We didn’t stay long.

The zoo was great, though. Zoo’s are built for buffalo and elephants, so kids can’t hurt them too much. All we had to worry about was the boys getting lost or climbing into cages. Thankfully, they didn’t.

Unless I have zoo confusion, they had a great aquatic show with dolphins. We loved it!

This 4th, I’ll be frying chicken again. I dream of S’mores every year, but don’t get around to preparing for it. Maybe Mama’s Icecream. 🙂 Here’s the link to the best homemade icecream recipe in my world. (Any flavor you want as long as it’s vanilla.)

Most of my kiddos will be here, which is the best part of that holiday for me now that they’re all grown up and I don’t have to worry about where they are and what they’re doing every second. With all the wives here to help, the holiday has become a joy!

And if I’m really lucky, we’ll have fireworks.

How do you celebrate our country’s independence?


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The Deceptive Month

I hope everyone whose birthday is this month will forgive me but . . .

Did you ever notice what a sneaky month May is? If you think about it, you’ll probably agree with me that it’s one of the most underhanded months on the calendar.

First the name–May. Three short letters intended, I’m sure, to make us believe it’s going to be a quick month. Ha! There are thirty-one days in this month. And as many weeks as a month can possibly crowd in.

There’s so much that goes on in May, creating so many emotions that hammer us. There’s Mother’s Day, when even rotten kids do something nice and bring sweet tears to their mama’s eye. Or their aunt’s, depending on the kiddo. 😉

Then there’s graduation–which can bring joy or sorrow, also depending on the kiddo– birthdays, anniversaries, the end of school, the beginning of summer, vacations, Memorial Day. Weddings, weddings, weddings and, of course, so many funerals.

May’s days are warmer and longer, intended to deceive us into thinking we’re going to be able to kick back, climb into a hammock and swing away summertime, ♫ when the living is easy♫.

But then grass jumps up and everything starts growing and creeping around and we have to work harder than ever, just to beat it back.

May gives us flowers as if she’s trying to be sweet and friendly and niiiiiice. But remember when the most destructive (in my memory) tornados happened. May 3, 1999 and May 22, 2011!

The year my second son was born, we slept under the stairs more nights in May than we slept in our beds. (Under the stairs is where we hid from tornados.)

We even saw on the news where a wedding in Kansas had a tornado for an uninvited guest. Only in May!

I think I’ll start a movement to change the name of May to Might. Think about it–Might says it all. It’s longer, so no deception there, and it tells you that all kinds of things could happen. Good and bad. Happy and very, very sad.

May MIGHT be a good month, then again, it MIGHT not, so why don’t we just get it over with and call it that from the get-go?

Might 23, 2012. Has a very nice ring to it. 🙂

 

 


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A Ring Thing

This started out to be a post called We Nailed It.

Warning: What you’re about to see maybe disturbing. Look at your own risk.

The foot in the blue sandal is a human foot on a live person. The odd color (paleness) caused by a lack of sunshine. People with this malady can be mistaken for walking snowmen. Do not let this happen to you.

But I forgot to take pictures of all the fun we had.

So I started to take a few this morning to share. You know, Show-And-Tell?

I snapped my toes.

And I snapped my fingers.

And that’s when I noticed what I really wanted to blog about.

The rings I wear. I sleep in them, swim in them, do everything I do in them. (Except get manicures. I take them off for that.)

The larger one is the one my man put on my finger during our wedding. He has one just like it, just a few sizes bigger.

The smaller one was my mama’s. Daddy gave it to her during their wedding. She was eighteen years old. He was nineteen.

 I’ll have worn it for twenty-one years on May 20 this year.

I don’t wear her ring as a protest against drunk driving. And I don’t wear it because its gold or old.

 I wear it to remind me of a couple of kids who got married and started raising a family two years later. Who named their first daughter after a pair of basketball shoes.

Who loved each other so much, worked together so well and had such a perfect marriage, all of their children have turned themselves inside out to emulate it.

I look at her ring and remember the first year we lived in Pryor Creek. Brad’s birthday party was going to flop, and on short notice, Mama gathered up the C-Town grandchildren and an armload of gifts and rushed to be there in time to cheer after he blew out his candles.

I remember the first year I was married and she dreamed I ran away from home. In her dream, she took my man to live with her and Dad.

I remember Mother’s Day weekend twenty-one years ago. I took the kids home to be with her, and she stopped everything to fish with my boys and the rest of the C-Town grandkids.

I look at her ring, and I remember the mother-in-law, the grandmommy, the friend, wife and mother I want to be.

  Mama won’t be at Brad’s wedding, but her spirit will be there in each of her children. And her grandchildren. And her great-grandchildren.

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:  “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.”

 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. Proverbs 31:28-31 NIV